MABLETON -- The Whitefield Academy football team and coach Coleman Joiner escaped May relatively unharmed.
Coaches usually dread the last month of the school year because it means graduation and a loss of seniors. The Wolfpack lost only six players to graduation, but two were all-state players in defensive end Kyle Holt and kicker Matthew Sumlin.
Leading the returning players is quarterback Cole Peterson, who will lead the offense for a second straight season. Peterson won the starting job as a freshman in 2018 and made second-team all-Region 6A while throwing for 1,333 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“We definitely left the training wheels on for him last season, but now we’re looking forward to being able to open up our playbook” Joiner said.
The bigger playbook will benefit receivers Myles Redding, Bryce Davis and Justin Tinch. Last season, Davis finished with 214 yards and three touchdowns, while Tinch finished with 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Whitefield's leading running backs -- Eric Little (547 yards, seven TDs) and Jaden Griffith (451 yards, four TDs) -- will also return. Joiner said rising junior Ethan Garrett will also join the backfield.
“We’re looking forward to those guys running behind our senior-laden offensive line,” Joiner said, as Whitefield will have three experienced senior starters up front in center Braeden Swilley, tackle Walker Smith and tackle Nick Ryder.
Holt, who made 63 tackles and nine sacks at defensive end in a 2018 season cut short by an appendectomy, signed to play at Jacksonville State next fall. In line to replace his sack production will be rising senior defensive end Walker Smith, who made 62 tackles with eight sacks last season, and senior linebacker Jaquez Dew, who had 129 tackles and six sacks.
Joiner said Smith and Dew have been grinding during the spring to be able to step up as the leaders of the defense.
“When your best players are also your hardest workers, that’s a really good thing,” Joiner said.
The critical gaze of college scouts may have further motivated Dew, as he is was scouted by multiple colleges during the spring and has received an offer from Shorter.
Whitefield will also have a couple of freshmen that likely to see playing time, including quarterback Ayden Duncanson, who Jordan called the fastest freshman in Georgia, and Ian Geffrard, a 6-foot-4, 343-pound lineman who has already received an offer from Georgia Tech.
The Wolfpack’s blend of experience and youth may be useful in helping them reach the state playoffs for the third straight year.
“There’s no substitute for experience at the high school level” center Braeden Swilley said. “A lot of guys still need to grow into their leadership roles and, if that happens, we could make a deep run into the playoffs.”